How Laser Hair Removal Works
The laser sees the color of the hair, then travels down to the root (follicle) and destroys the blood line. Once the hair follicle is dead, it will never grow again…ever (that’s why there are bald people – their hair follicles don’t grow back). The laser looks for color, so true blond and gray hair are not easily removed, but we do have success!
There are lots of hair follicles in our body (five million!) that don’t grow until certain hormones are released. Pregnancy, menopause, puberty, certain medication and testosterone and estrogen-releasing activities can cause hair to grow in strange places at strange times.
The Hair Growth Cycle:
Hair growth can be compared to the growth stage of spring-time flowers. You know that in the spring, the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips will start popping through the soil. You never know exactly when this will happen, and which bulbs you’ve planted will grow first, but you know they will come in stages. Sometimes the crocuses start to bloom in January, and sometimes they start in February. Sometimes the tulips come up before the daffodils, but sometimes not.
Hair growth is just like flower bulbs:
You never know when exactly each hair follicle is going to come to life, but many of them will. For example: most women don’t get ear hair, although most women have those hair follicles imbedded in their ears. Hormones are the main things that activate hair to grow, so if you’re a man, with male hormones, your hormones will activate that hair to grow in your ears. If you’re a woman with ear-hair activated hormones, you may find you get hairy ears. None of your hair is on the same schedule, and not all of your hair is growing at the same time. Hair follicles grow in repeated cycles. One cycle can be broken down into three phases:
Anagen Phase - Growth Phase
On average, approximately 10% -20% of all hairs are in the growing phase at any one time, depending on the area of the body. The Anagen phase or growth phase can vary from two to six weeks. Hair grows approximately 10cm per year and any individual hair is unlikely to grow more than one meter long.
Catagen Phase – Transitional Phase
At the end of the Anagen phase the hairs enters into a Catagen phase which lasts about one or two weeks. During the Catagen phase the hair follicle shrinks to about 1/6 of the normal length. The lower part is destroyed and the dermal papilla breaks away to rest below the surface of the skin.
Telogen Phase - Resting Phase
The resting phase follows the Catagen phase and normally lasts about 5-6 weeks. During this time the hair does not grow but stays attached to the follicle while the dermal papilla stays in a resting phase below. Approximately 55%-85% of all hairs are in this phase at any one time.
At the end of the Telogen phase the hair follicle re-enters the Anagen phase. The dermal papilla and the base of the follicle join together again and a new hair begins to form. If the old hair has not already been shed the new hair pushes the old one out and the growth cycle starts all over again.
Hair growth is just like flower bulbs:
Not all the hair growing out of your skin is in the Anagen, or growing, stage. The laser disconnects the blood supply that feeds the root of any hair in the Anagen stage, ensuring that the next time that root wants to grow again, nothing comes to feed it, and it dies. This is the science of how laser hair removal works. And because an average of 10% of the hair is in this growing stage at any given time, basic physiology and basic math conclude that it typically takes about ten laser treatments to remove 100% of the hair. A series of treatments is required in order to successfully get to the hair when it’s in the Anagen stage.
|"The phases of the hair growth cycle|
|The hair growth cycle, showing the changes from the growing of a new hair (anagen) to its shedding (telogen): notice how in anagen the hair bulb lies deep inside the and skin, then rises towards the surface before the hair is shed, then moves down again as the new hair grows.|
There are three main reasons.
- the spot size;
- the speed of the laser
- how cool it is (literally)
Let us explain...
- The spot size:
The distance gauge is connected to a fiber that is connected to the laser. The power of the laser goes through the fiber and exits through the distance gauge into your skin, killing any living hair in its path. The size of the distance gauge varies according to diameter of the beam, or the spot size.
Here’s a picture of the brown distance gauge with a tiny burst of DCD spraying onto the skin. These distance gauges come in different sizes, depending on the spot size.
Each time the laser hits your skin, it’s called a pulse. The number of pulses you receive is dependent on the size of the area being treated. The size of the distance gauge is also dependent on the size of the area being treated (an upper lip is a small area; a man’s back is a large area), as well as the type of hair that is growing on that area (the root of course hair is deeper in your skin than is fine, soft, light colored hair). This is true of most laser hair removal systems: they all rely on the distance gauge to deliver the laser power.
Our lasers have the largest spot size available on the market. This amazing technology benefits you in that it means fewer number of pulses (which feel like a rubber band snap), and more effective penetration (the larger the spot size, the deeper the laser can go).
What this means for you is this:
Imagine you’re getting your legs lasered or your back lasered…ok? Now 18 mm is about the size of a quarter. So the laser is going to hit every single area of your legs or your back. Now, further imagine laying quarters out on your legs or your back, overlapping them by about 25% (think about the logo for the Olympics – the rings are overlapped). Got it? So, we’re talking about a lot of quarters, right?
Well, other laser hair removal systems only come with a 10 mm distance gauge. 10 mm is about the size of a dime. Would you rather have dimes or quarters? Imagine you’re covered in dimes or quarters. Would you rather get snapped with a rubber band a few times or a lot of times? The quarter size distance gauge means fewer number of snaps.
The correct answer is quarters, of course. Fewer pulses is best.
- The Speed of the Laser:
What this refers to is how quickly the laser can reset itself, which means how quickly you can get your treatment over with. The GentleYag can deliver TWO PULSES PER SECOND with enough power and energy to go deeply enough to kill the blood supply to your living hair. It is quite extraordinary. This makes a laser treatment take minutes, rather than hours. A man’s back typically takes about 20 minutes, and underarms takes about 5 minutes.
- How Cool It Is:
Yet another great thing about the GentleYag, and, in fact, most of the lasers manufactures by the Candela Corporation. Critical with any laser procedure is how the skin is protected from the laser energy. The cryogen-based Dynamic Cooling Device™ (DCD™) of the GentleYAG is unique in its ability to cool the skin during your laser treatment. Because the same amount of cryogen is sprayed onto your skin prior to each and every laser pulse, the consistency and reproducibility of this cooling method adds to the speed and convenience of the laser treatment. Other laser systems rely on contact or air-cooling; their lack of specificity and dependence on operator technique can compromise treatment efficacy—either under-cooling or over-cooling the treatment area.
- Do NOT pluck or wax for a week prior to your treatment.
- DO shave the day prior to your laser treatmet. There may be an additional charge if we need to shave you.
- Avoid being in the sun without sunscreen on the area(s) you’re having treated for 5 days prior to your treatment. This includes sunless tanning products, tanning beds, and spray tanning. IIn some cases, tanned skin can be lasered. However, PLEASE stay out of a tanning bed or away from spray tan or sunless tanning products AT LEAST 5 days prior to your treatment.
- Also, don’t use Retin A on the area(s) to be treated for 7 days prior to your treatment.
- If you have used Accutane in the past, you must have been off this product for at least six months prior to the treatment.
- We do not perform laser treatments on pregnant women.
During the Treatment:
If you’ve never been to our office before, you’ll have some paperwork to complete (unless you bring it in), including a medical history, skin type chart, and laser consent form. This takes just a few minutes. Once our technician has reviewed your history and has answered all your questions, we’ll escort you to the laser room. You’ll need to take clothing off any area we’re treating. We’ll ensure there is no hair present on the area(s) we’re treating, then wipe the area to be treated with a wash cloth or baby wipe. We’ll calibrate the laser for you based on your skin type and the type of hair being treated, you and the technician will don the appropriate safety goggles. Let the zapping begin! If you find the treatment too intense, we’ll apply an ice pack to the area we’re treating. Generally, 30 seconds of ice is all that’s needed. If you have a low tolerance for pain, there is a topical anesthetic available for purchase from our office it does require a minimum of 30 minutes to activate, so we’ll need to plan for that.
Length of Time for the Treatment:
Smaller areas like eyebrows, beard, upper lip, chin, ears, underarms, areola, bikini, brazilian, fingers, hands, toes, and feet typically take less than 10 minutes each to treat. Larger areas like abdomen, front or back necks, shoulders, lower or upper legs, lower or upper arms, or partial backs or chests usually take no more than 20 minutes. Full legs, full arms, and full backs typically take about 45 minutes.
After the Treatment:
Your skin may be red and even a little bumpy. This is generally a histamine reaction and will dissipate within a few hours. Your skin will be sensitive to the sun, so you’ll apply sunscreen before you leave our office. We have sunscreen for your use, so don’t worry about bringing in your own (though you can if you want). You will be able to go about your life after the treatment, and you can shower, apply makeup, etc. In other words, there’s no down time after a laser hair removal treatment. Post treatment aftercare instructions are found here: Learn More
Your appointment will be confirmed via an email reminder, as well as a phone call and/or text message from our office, no later than the day prior to your appointment. Please arrive a few minutes before your scheduled time. Because appointments often take less than ten minutes, if you are running more than 10 minutes late for your appointment, we will have to reschedule your appointment. If this happens, or if you should need to cancel your appointment on the same day of your treatment (or if you forget about it) or are unable to give us an 18-hour notice that you need to change or cancel your appointment, you will lose this treatment. If you have too recent sun exposure and we are unable to do your treatment, you will lose the treatment. Good news, though: you can repurchase and replace this appointment for the price you originally paid for it. Rescheduling the missed appointment is subject to our availability.